This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

The Army Corps of Engineers is installing up to 500 temporary generators until Puerto Rico’s old and deteriorating power grid can be made operational again, but long-term total power restoration could take nearly a year, the Corps’ chief of engineers told reporters at the Pentagon today.


The Corps is starting with public facilities and it faces power restoration to 3.4 million houses on the U.S. territory, some of which are in remote areas, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said.

Semonite said the island governor’s immediate goals are to restore power to 30 percent of Puerto Rico by the end of October and to 50 percent by the end of November, which the general said he considers a challenge.

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico
Soldiers from the Puerto Rico Army National Guard and the South Carolina Army National Guard team up to clear debris that blocks roads in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Soldiers were working in the vicinity of Cayey, Puerto Rico. (36th Infantry Division photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)

The Corps is responding to the effects of four major hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands within a six-week span. Puerto Rico remains a challenge in part because it is an island, making it difficult to receive supplies, such as the 62,000 utility poles needed for power restoration.

Also read: 6 of the largest humanitarian missions in US military history

“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is a completely different paradigm,” he said. “People have asked me in the last several weeks … ‘Why don’t you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?’ Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks … down into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”

The Corps also needs about 338 utility towers, Semonite said, noting that each one is 75 feet long and must be flown in. “And then we need an awful a lot of connectors and cable, as well. But the whole goal is to get the transmission up and running,” he added.

Four-fold Strategy

The Corps’ power strategy is fourfold, starting with the temporary generators. As of today, 148 have been put in place, Semonite said.

The second line of effort is generation from the power plants.

“We need about 2,500 megawatts of power … to be able to restore the power back up to where it was at the beginning of the storm. Today, right now, we’ve got about 21.6 percent of that up,” he said.

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico—Temporary power generators staged in a yard in Fort Buchanan are prepared for installation in critical facilities throughout Puerto Rico, October 8, 2017. Soldiers assigned to 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders are working with FEMA to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr, 24th Press Camp HQ)

Transmission is the third line of effort in the strategy to restore power, Semonite said. “The No. 1 goal right now of what the Corps is doing is to be able to move this electricity that’s in the south up to the north,” he explained.

The fourth line of effort is distribution — getting power to homes and other buildings along terrain that is a massive logistics challenge, the general said.

“There are seven large power plants that normally run off of fossil fuel,” he said. There are also about seven solar or wind power plants and 21 hydropower plants, Semonite added. But, the general explained, the majority of that power is generated in the southern part of the island, while the majority of the need is in the north — particularly around San Juan.

Moving Power

And though transmission and distribution remain a challenge, there just isn’t enough capacity in Puerto Rico’s existing power plants to provide electricity to the island, Semonite said.

“Even if in fact all of the power plants are up and running, we would have a generation shortfall,” he said. “So about a week and a half ago, we cut a contract to a large company to come back in and place a temporary power plant in San Juan.”

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins the installation of two power generators at the Palo Seco Power Plant in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Oct. 17, 2017. The power plant which was damaged by Hurricane Maria is currently operating at very low capacity. USACE is working with local and national contractors and the Puerto Rico Electric Authority to stabilize the power plant. Once the generators are operational they will provide 50 megawatts of power, which will be able to power over 11,000 homes. The Department of Defense is working with USACE, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the local government and other organizations to provide disaster relief in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Colletta)

The Corps and the Defense Department are working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico’s local government to restore power to the island, he emphasized.

Restoring power to the island is going to take a massive, long-term rebuild of the power grid, Semonite said.

“So what we are doing is to go all-out and put as many generators in as we can, mainly in public facilities. We got a list from the governor, and all the mayors donated to that list,” the general said. “And the list has got about 428 different requirements on it today.”

Articles

Former NSA contractor allegedly stole docs seemingly far more sensitive than Snowden’s

Former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin allegedly stole documents that seem far more sensitive than what has come from the Snowden leaks.


For more than two decades, Martin allegedly made off with highly-classified documents that were found in his home and car that included discussions of the US military’s capabilities and gaps in cyberspace, specific targets, and “extremely sensitive” operations against terror groups, according to an indictment released Wednesday.

Martin was arrested by the FBI at his home on August 27, 2016. Agents found thousands of pages and “many terabytes of information” there, according to court documents reviewed by The New York Times.

With the release of the indictment, it has become more clear of what was apparently in those files.

The indictment charges Martin with 20 counts of having unauthorized possession of documents from not only the NSA, but also from US Cyber Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Central Intelligence Agency. While many of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were top-secret, they mostly consisted of PowerPoint presentations and training materials.

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico
The National Security Operations Center (NSOC). | NSA photo

Top-secret documents allegedly stolen by Martin, however, offer much more specific and damaging details to potential adversaries. Here’s a sampling (via the indictment):

  • A 2014 NSA report outlining intelligence information regarding foreign cyber issues, containing foreign cyber intrusion techniques
  • A 2009 draft of a United States Signals Intelligence Directive, which outlined specific methods, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures associated with [computer network operations] used to defend the United States.
  • An NSA anti-terrorism operational document concerning extremely sensitive US planning and operations regarding global terrorists.

With just those three documents, an adversary would have details on how the NSA stops hackers from penetrating its networks and what kind of gaps still exist, along with how the agency plans operations against terror groups. Though it’s not apparent from the indictment that Martin passed the documents along to anyone, if he did so it would be a huge setback to the intelligence community.

Soon after Martin’s arrest, his lawyers told The New York Times that he “loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.” A US official described him as a “hoarder.”

The indictment continues (emphasis added):

  • An outline of a classified exercise involving real-world NSA and US military resources to demonstrate existing cyber intelligence and operational capabilities.
  • A description of the technical architecture of an NSA communications system.
  • A USCYBERCOM document, dated August 17, 2016, discussing capabilities and gapsin capabilities of the US military and details of specific operations.
  • A USCYBERCOM document, dated May 23, 2016, containing information about the capabilities and targets of the US military.
  • A 2008 CIA document containing information relating to foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, and relating to a foreign intelligence collection target.

For at least a portion of Martin’s career, he served in the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit, an elite group of government hackers tasked with breaking into foreign networks. Some US officials told The Washington Post that Martin allegedly took more than 75% of TAO’s library of hacking tools, a potentially massive breach of an outfit that has been shrouded in secrecy.

According to The New York Times, some investigators suspect Martin may possibly be the source of the trove of TAO hacking tools that were posted online last year by a group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers.” Those disclosures likely spurred “a lot of panic” inside the agency, according to a former TAO operator who spoke with Business Insider last year.

“The FBI investigation and this indictment reveal a broken trust from a security clearance holder,” Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division said in a statement.

“Willfully retaining highly classified national defense information in a vulnerable setting is a violation of the security policy and the law, which weakens our national security and cannot be tolerated. The FBI is vigilant against such abuses of trust, and will vigorously investigate cases whenever classified information is not maintained in accordance with the law.”

Martin faces a maximum sentence of 200 years in prison. His initial court appearance is scheduled for February 14.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Untold Story of the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden

It has been 10 years since May 2, 2011, the night a top-secret SEAL raid took out notorious terrorist and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. You may think you know the story of bin Laden and the ten-year manhunt that ended in his death, but you’ve probably seen it like this before. In Revealed: The Hunt for Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 Museum and the History Channel team up to present never-before-seen interviews and previously classified material. Film co-producers Clifford Chanin and Jessica Chen join Left of Boom to explain why every American should know this story.

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Mentioned in this episode:

Osama bin Laden

Sept. 11, 2001 Attacks

Operation Neptune Spear

Navy SEALs

Afghanistan War

Zero Dark Thirty

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

Welcome back to Left of Boom. I’m your host, Military.com managing editor Hope Hodge Seck. Today’s episode is a treat. We’ll be talking to Clifford Chanin and Jessica Chen, executive producer and co-producer of Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Ladin, a brand-new documentary premiering now on the History Channel. It’s the 10-year anniversary of Operation Neptune spear, the May 2, 2011 SEAL raid that ended the life of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. This new project includes interviews with past U.S. presidents, senior decision-making officials and the SEALs themselves to present a new picture of events that changed American history forever. After hearing this episode, I promise you’ll want to check it out for yourself. So without further ado, let’s get into it. Cliff and Jess, welcome to the show.

Clifford Chanin 0:56

Great to be here. Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 0:57

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 0:59

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since the bin Laden raid. The operation itself was one of the earlier world events to be live-tweeted. I remember there was a guy near Abbottabad who heard helicopters and started tweeting about what he was hearing and seeing. And since then reporting on what happened there has been abundant. You’ve got everything from Zero Dark 30 to the man who ostensibly fired the kill shot at bin Laden, who has accumulated some fame in his own right. But this project goes a whole lot deeper than all of that. How did it come about?

Clifford Chanin 1:35

Well, it was more than five years ago in fact that we first started talking about this as an exhibition. We have a special exhibitions gallery in the museum. And we have done a couple of shows prior to this. But certainly the raid and the end of bin Laden’s life is also the end of a major chapter in the 9/11 story. It’s not the end of the threat. It’s not the end of the 9/11 story itself. But it certainly is an important moment in that overall story. And so we began developing this as an exhibition. And in the course of that development, the relationships we had with the military and the intelligence folks had really developed through a set of other programs at the museum. And so we were getting access to people and to objects that could be shown in the exhibition that actually went far beyond what we’d originally imagined. It was hard to imagine this originally, because everything was still classified, essentially. So we didn’t even know what we were asking for in most cases. But as we began to get access to people, including some still active in the intelligence community, people who were part of the hunt, who were there for the conclusion of the hunt. We put together for the exhibition, I think it was a very, very powerful narrative in the context of an exhibition that was only a tiny fraction of what we had gathered through the interview process. And so we decided that for the 10th anniversary of the raid, it would be a very powerful film. We added even after the exhibition opened, a number of very important interviews that fleshed out the story beyond what the exhibition could tell. And so it was a bit of a rush, and doing things under COVID is, as everybody knows, at least very different, if not crazy, but we did manage and get it to completion. And here we are Sunday night, May 2, History Channel, I’m doing the plug … And that’s the short version of the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:44

Where do you start? What are the first phone calls that you make to kind of open the doors to as you said, to this previously undisclosed information?

Clifford Chanin 3:52

I’ll let Jess tell about these programs that I mentioned before, because they turn out to be absolutely critical in establishing a level of confidence and trust between the museum and these broader agencies. So I think Jess should pick up the beginnings of the story. And then we can talk about, you know, how we actually tried to figure out what the story should be.

Jessica Chen 4:13

Sure, thanks, Cliff. So at the museum, the museum opened in 2014. But even before that, it really benefited from a really strong relationship with a lot of the agencies that not only responded immediately after 9/11, but kind of took up the work after 9/11 to combat terrorism and also to do the work that continues to keep this nation safe. And so those groups not only provided assets for the exhibition, but have continued to come to the museum, especially with new recruits and with new staffers who are interested in understanding how 9/11 fits into their institutional history. These visits have actually become very cool programs that we offer to what we call professional groups. And these are groups that are comprised of intelligence agencies, ;aw enforcement agencies, military and government professionals who are really kind of diving into their museum experience with a very personal connection, but also a mission-oriented sense of the story for us at the museum, not only in the museum work that we do, but also thinking about this film. It’s largely stemming from these relationships that have been built over time, not only with the people who were part of making the museum happen, but also the people who continue to bring new people through the museum.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:29

It’s incredible. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions most Americans have about the story of Osama bin Laden in the way that his narrative intertwines with the United States?

Clifford Chanin 5:45

Well, you know, it’s a really interesting question. It came to such a definitive conclusion on May 2, 2011, people could get the impression that there was kind of a straight-line outcome here, that this was all forordained, and this was just how it was going to turn out. And I would say, that’s anything but the truth. The first issue is what our focus on bin Laden was before 9/11, which wasn’t widely concentrated across the national security community. Obviously, there were people who were focused on al-Qaida and understood the threat and understood that in 1996 and 1998, when bin Laden issues fatwas justifying attacks against the United States, against American civilians in the second fatwa, that, you know, that is an important threat. But there were other things going on in the world. And even those earlier attacks and the embassies in Africa in 1998, the Cole in 2000, as tragic and impactful as they were, it did not really transform the sense of the threat. And that, of course, was what happened on 9/11. And so, to me, the interesting part, and I think we present this in some fascinating detail, how do you hunt for someone who’s hiding from you who could be anywhere in the world? And who’s actually quite good at hiding? I was talking about this one of the intelligence analysts at one point, and she said, Well, you know, Ted Kaczynski was hiding in the United States, our own country, I think it was 17 years, and we couldn’t find him. So you know, why would it have been easier to find Osama bin Laden, and then even when the lead gets us pointed at that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where ultimately he was found, there’s never any assurance, it’s no more than a circumstantial case, that this may be somewhat important, but there’s no guarantee it’s Osama bin Laden. And so every step of the way has risk. Every step of the way has a calculation about, Is this real? And if we act as though it’s real, and it turns out not to be real, what are the consequences of that going to be? I mean, just imagine everything that happens on that raid happens exactly the same way. And it’s not Osama bin Laden. You know, it’s some drug dealer, we’re not going to invade Pakistani territory for a drug dealer. So how do we deal with that? And so one thing after another, which in retrospect, seemed like a very logical progression, none of it, none of it was except, and it’s a remarkable credit to their work. But the intelligence professionals who drove this hunt, said, Yes, we can’t give you a written guarantee. But this is what the conclusion leads us to determine.

Jessica Chen 8:38

I’m gonna add to what Cliff just said, and kind of characterize it in my own personal experience. I was starting eighth grade on 9/11. And then I was in New York, having just graduated from college, when the raid, the successful operation was announced. And I think for a lot of people who are my age, and who kind of, these two moments kind of form the bookends of our adulthood or growing up into adulthood, I think that it’s hard to kind of link the first moment to this moment. The film itself kind of traces these bookmarks. You know, it starts with intelligence, it goes to policy, and then it goes to the military raid. And I think we forget just how committed many people were after 9/11 to finding this person that was that was really hard to find. And I think what the film does is, it helps people to understand that the motivation and the drive to bring justice did not go away, even though they couldn’t find him, and that there were real personal sacrifices made along the way. I’m really hopeful that for my peers to watch this film, and to understand just how committed everybody was to seeing this through.

Hope Hodge Seck 9:49

I really resonate with that. I think we’re of a very similar age. I think I was also in eighth grade when the attacks happened. I think that really puts it in context. They were key moments. Guess I’ll just ask you both to expand on that. So when you have this wealth of information and all these exhibits, and all of this documentation, how do you then make decisions for how to organize it to tell and frame a story, especially when you’ve got the constraints of time?

Clifford Chanin 10:19

So it was shaped a little bit by the exhibition, although the film is very different than the exhibition. And I do want to say, again, just a brief plug, the exhibition itself, the museum is open, the 9/11 museum is open, we’ve just reopened the bin Laden special exhibition. So I hope people who are thinking of traveling to New York might consider coming to see it if they can. We’re offering online virtual tours of the museum and the exhibition as well. So 911 memorial.org, our website is the place to go looking for that. Sorry for diverging from your question. But the most powerful factor in shaping this, from the very beginning, we alluded to this before, but it’s very unusual, curatorially speaking, we never had a sense in advance of what objects and which people we would have available to us to tell the story. So we would make requests based on these relationships that just described earlier, of these intelligence agencies initially, just to say, look, were planning to do this exhibition, we’d like to be able to talk to you about what might be available for us. And those agencies are bound by the classification rules, obviously. And even though, you know, many of the key public figures who were involved in this had spoken about the raid and wrote wrote about the raid, technically it was still classified. So anything that they were going to make available to us had to go through an internal process within each of these agencies, and the agencies have different processes with different considerations. And on top of which we never knew how long it would take, or what the criteria for decision would be, as to whether or not we could get something. So that was, that was curious. But we did manage to get these meetings that particularly on the intelligence side, where we go in, and we’d say, Well, here’s the point in the story that we’re trying to make, we’re trying to tell, for example, that, you know, there was this massive effort to find as much intelligence as you could by partnering the intelligence agencies on the battlefield with the military, just do these raids and sweeps and process all this intelligence in real time. So you can really make it actionable as soon as possible. Okay. That’s a good point, right? What could demonstrate that. So we are museum curators who don’t know what the objects are, and the people were asking our intelligence professionals who don’t know what museum curators need. So, you know, we would really try to be very specific in their requests. And inevitably, what happened was, we’d be in these meetings, you know, in these secret bunkers. And you know, you have to be screened to get in with a pass and an escort and you’re never, you’re never alone. And we’d be sitting in these rooms. And we’d make a point, this is what this is the kind of thing we want. And you could see, they began looking at each other. And you could see the eyes communicating there, maybe a little smile here and there. But they wouldn’t say anything in front of us. Because what they were thinking of offering us was still classified. And so the question was, A, is this really the answer to the question of what they’re looking for? Well, we can’t ask them. And B, if it is the answer to the question of what they’re looking for, can we get it cleared and give it to them? So the process was very elaborate. Internally, the only thing I will add is, it’s very clear to me and we became, you know, friends with some of the folks in the agencies who became our internal advocates. So there were people who, for a variety of reasons thought, this story should be told the 9/11 Museum is the place to tell it, and I, Person X, who have access to the process, who understand what’s being asked for, who know the people who are involved in making these decisions, I am going to be the internal advocate for this project inside my agency. I don’t think this happens, really, if we don’t have a handful of those key people. I can’t thank them personally, well, I thank them personally, but I can’t thank them publicly, for exactly the same reasons that I’ve described in the beginning of this story. But that really is the key doing this, because they all are knit into this story together. They know one another, they trust one another. They work together. And they would vouch for us with some of the other folks who may have retired or whatever it was, Would you be willing to sit down for an interview with them? And that’s how the process really unfolded.

Jessica Chen 14:45

To pick up where Cliff leaves off. You know, now you have all these relationships, all of these advocates and what sometimes feels like a landslide of connections of details, of stories to tell. I think Cliff and I both have kind of threads in the story that we felt very personally convicted to bring to light. You know, there, there are some things that are explained that that I think I’d leave it to Cliff to kind of flesh out in more detail that have never been kind of discussed publicly before. But I think for me, you know, something that was incredibly important when evaluating how to take all of this material and put it in a film, which, although it’s, it’s a full-length film, felt a little short at the end, because we’re trying to stuff so much stuff into it. For me, it was really understanding how can we convey the humanity and the human cost at every step in the story. So the film opens, really, with an understanding of 9/11, and the human loss on 9/11. And then you go through a hunt that is marked by people who are incredibly human. I hope we’ve captured them, kind of their frustration, but also their commitment, and even their human sacrifice in terms of seeing this through policymakers, when they’re discussing the hunt, the odds that Cliff described earlier, really thinking about the people who are going to be doing this and what they’re putting, those people in that situation that they’re asking them to expose themselves to, and then the military members who take on kind of the risk and see the mission through. And so I think, because of all the interviews with so many generous, unseen individuals, we’re able to kind of get a sense of the people that the real people who kind of were involved in the story, and I hope we’ve done a good job and kind of lending some some of their personalities to tell the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 16:31

Man, I can’t wait to see it. What sorts of things are easier to understand and analyze and contextualize, with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight?

Clifford Chanin 16:44

Well, I do think there was an awareness in the community at large, that one of the failures of 9/11 was the lack of communication across agencies, and between the intelligence and the military world. And they tried to fix that right away. And because of, you know, tradition and culture, and just the different approaches, that wasn’t an easy fix. But once we were fighting in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq, it was something they realized, you just had to do it, because you were losing service members on the battlefield there. And there was always a sense that al-Qaida was still out there, bin Laden was still out there, and didn’t know what they were planning. But you knew they were planning something, and so you know, that prospect of another catastrophe, or simply not doing enough to protect American military personnel on the battlefield, that really broke down a lot of barriers. And it’s a remarkable story, because, you know, the techniques, the practices that were sort of implemented over years before the raid in Pakistan, were the very same techniques and practices that were applied to solve this problem of what’s going on in that compound. And so even though it was from the distance factor, and from the political factor of going into an allied sovereign nation without their permission, and conducting a military operation, in the heart of a populated area, the people who knew how to do this, were confident that they could do it, and they had done things like this enough and work together enough that, you know, it was more complicated, certainly, and more risky because of the factors involved. But you know, as one of the SEALs says in one of the interviews, that a raid is a raid is a raid. You know, we know how to do this. It’s really, you know, a remarkable piece. And the aviation piece of this is also something that — the whole mission was about four hours. Forty minutes of that mission, were on the ground, which means more than three hours, the operators were basically passengers on what one of the SEALs called a ginormous bus. And so the success of the mission is in the hands of the pilots, and how they conduct themselves and how they’re prepared for this and what they know about the conditions that they’re flying in all of this interaction. And all of the key actors had worked with one another on other missions before they knew one another, they trusted one another. And so again, that period, through war, of really developing expertise and trust, I think it was key to what would ultimately happen and what the U.S. military has learned about how to conduct these kinds of operations.

Hope Hodge Seck 19:41

To build on that, are there indicators that events would play out differently if they happen today? You talked about the need to communicate better. I know that’s not a problem that probably will ever be fully solved.

Clifford Chanin 19:57

You know, the thing that The experts always say is that the threat changes. And so 9/11 was a product of al-Qaida, which was at that point, a structured administrated centralized organization, with, for a terrorist group, you know, reasonably efficient command and control. The years since have seen that central structure come under enormous pressure and break in many ways. But the threat has splintered into other groups that may be connected with al-Qaida or not, may have been inspired by al-Qaida may have said al-Qaida didn’t go far enough, as the Islamic State did. Or that you might have these so called “lone actor” terrorists who radicalize online or through personal contacts with people and decide on their own as some ideologists of the Jihad have urged them, just to attack people where you can. I mean, we don’t want to have a centralized structure anymore, or we can’t sustain a centralized structure anymore. But it doesn’t change what the mission needs to be. That threat changes. Therefore, how we study it, how we understand it has to change, and how we respond to it has to change.

Hope Hodge Seck 21:09

One aspect of the way the story is told, and you’ve already referred to this, is there are these educational materials for high schoolers to discuss 911 and the hunt for bin Laden and Operation Neptune Spear. Today’s high schoolers obviously have no memory of 9/11, which is a little bit shocking for older Millennials like me to contemplate. And in fact, there are even soldiers and Marines and service members who have deployed to Afghanistan with no memory of 9/11, which is the nexus for the start of this war. Why was it so important to provide an entry point for high schoolers into this material?

Jessica Chen 21:51

For me, I think so much of and I’m also speaking from an older Millennial perspective, but our department or my department in the museum is focused on education. And I lean on my colleagues and their expertise to work specifically with students. But I think all of us on the education team feel really strongly that the world that we live in today is shaped so much by the events of 9/11 and the events that followed, I think it’s important to contextualize it because we understand that the leadership lessons, the incredible stories of courage and of commitment, that they have resonances with what is going on in the world today. And I think that trying to engage students, and trying to kind of connect them with the importance of understanding our shared history is just so, so important and so central, as they think about, you know, where they’re going to be in the next 10 years.

Clifford Chanin 22:43

You know, this is the 10th anniversary of the bin Laden raid, but it’s also the 20th anniversary, this September, of 9/11. Twenty years is the span of a generation. Think about it. I mean, nobody who’s in high school was even born when 9/11 happened. And if you’re in college, you may have been born, but you were a year or two old and you’re not going to remember it. And so it’s a funny thing that happens with history and a museum like ours. When we started this project, and I go way back to, I wasn’t in junior high school when this happened. So the thought was, well, everybody knows this story. So you know, what’s going to make our presentation of the story compelling? Well, 20 years pass, and that assumption is completely out the window. Not everybody knows this story. In fact, every day, more people don’t know this story. And so the challenge for the museum of telling this story, and as Jess says, explaining just how significant this moment in history was, and continues to be. Now that becomes, I think, frankly, more than we imagined it 15 years ago, that becomes central to the mission of our current-day museum and will only grow in importance every day. I mean, think about, it’s not just the attack and the vulnerability. It’s the response of this country. I mean, I don’t know if you guys remember. But, you know, this country came together across all divides, across all barriers, I mean, all the things we’re struggling with as a society today, were wiped away by the common solidarity and feeling that service was spontaneously the outcome of Americans reactions to 9/11. Not just Americans, people around the world. If we’re thinking about where we are today, look back and ask the question, what was it that gave us this kind of resilience and solidarity 20 years ago? What’s missing? What can we do about it now? Because it’s better to be like that than it is to be at each other’s throats. And so, you know, that’s how the mission of the museum evolves. It’s always rooted in 9/11 and telling that story, but there’s no fixed point where you can say Hey, okay, this is over, let’s turn the page. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Hope Hodge Seck 25:04

I have one final question that I hope that both of you will answer in your own way. What larger story do you think all the events that you cover in this documentary, and the accompanying presentation, tell us about America?

Jessica Chen 25:19

I think, you know, going back to personal experience again, and also I was on the West Coast when 9/11 happened, and now have spent most of my adult life on the East Coast. So I consider myself a New Yorker. But I think the breadth of characters of people who undertake this work is pretty remarkable, you know, something that I can say without necessarily speaking to specific identities, but the number of women who are involved in this work and who take on, you know, risk and responsibility. I’m hopeful that, that when people watch this film, that they’re going to see something in it that reminds them of themselves and where they are in life and how they can contribute to society, but can also just recognize the importance of working together. And this is just to kind of pick up on what Cliff was just saying, that almost everybody who we interviewed for this film, mentioned, at some point in their interview, just looking back and thinking how remarkable it is when everybody learns how to place trust in one another when everyone works together, when everyone is committed to a common purpose. And I think that obviously can be applied into situations that are not exactly like this, but even the environments that all of us work in and live in. That’s kind of that that’s where I where I land on the film.

Clifford Chanin 26:34

Yeah, I agree. You know, as we’ve gotten to know some of the folks involved, it’s very obvious that they disagree about things, they don’t all see the world the same way. And yet, when they were required to do something for the common good, the only factor was how to succeed in doing that task. Everything else was secondary. And it’s been my good fortune to see some of those relationships in action, to see how they relate to one another, in spite of whatever other differences that are much, much smaller in importance than the things they have in common. But in spite of their differences, there is a sense of mutual recognition in the idea that they went through this together, they took the risks together, they understood that the most important thing in these circumstances is to be able to count on the other person you’re working with, regardless of anything else. And every one of them came through for everybody else when they needed to. That’s just a remarkable story. And it is really what it is to offer the best of your service on behalf of your country. And really on behalf of the common humanity that you know, you share with everyone else who’s involved in this. And of course, for the families of the 9/11 victims, for the victims themselves who were killed. I mean, that focal point of the mission, never faltered through the hunt, when they weren’t finding anybody when they didn’t know where to look. All of that drove them onward to this, you know, remarkable, remarkable success story.

Hope Hodge Seck 28:21

Well, thank you both so much for being here today. This documentary, as you said, comes out May 2, what are the different ways that people can watch?

Clifford Chanin 28:29

Well, the History Channel is going to be premiering it through your cable provider. As of May 3, it’s available through histories, website and digital platforms. And you have to sign on with your cable login information. And it’s also available for sale through various streaming partners that provide History Channel broadcasts

Hope Hodge Seck 28:54

Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.

Clifford Chanin 28:57

Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 28:58

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:08

Thanks for joining us for this special episode of Left of Boom. I’d love to hear your thoughts on “The Hunt for Bin Laden.” Send me an email at podcast@military.com and let me know what you think of the documentary and presentation. You can also pitch me ideas for future shows while you’re at it. If you’re not subscribed to the podcast, please go ahead and do it now so you don’t miss a future episode. And leave us a rating and review to so other people can find us. And remember that you can get all the news and information you need about your military community every day at Military.com.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

Welcome back to Left of Boom. I’m your host, Military.com managing editor Hope Hodge Seck. Today’s episode is a treat. We’ll be talking to Clifford Chanin and Jessica Chen, executive producer and co-producer of Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Ladin, a brand-new documentary premiering now on the History Channel. It’s the 10-year anniversary of Operation Neptune spear, the May 2, 2011 SEAL raid that ended the life of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. This new project includes interviews with past U.S. presidents, senior decision-making officials and the SEALs themselves to present a new picture of events that changed American history forever. After hearing this episode, I promise you’ll want to check it out for yourself. So without further ado, let’s get into it. Cliff and Jess, welcome to the show.

Clifford Chanin 0:56

Great to be here. Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 0:57

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 0:59

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since the bin Laden raid. The operation itself was one of the earlier world events to be live-tweeted. I remember there was a guy near Abbottabad who heard helicopters and started tweeting about what he was hearing and seeing. And since then reporting on what happened there has been abundant. You’ve got everything from Zero Dark 30 to the man who ostensibly fired the kill shot at bin Laden, who has accumulated some fame in his own right. But this project goes a whole lot deeper than all of that. How did it come about?

Clifford Chanin 1:35

Well, it was more than five years ago in fact that we first started talking about this as an exhibition. We have a special exhibitions gallery in the museum. And we have done a couple of shows prior to this. But certainly the raid and the end of bin Laden’s life isn also the end of a major chapter in the 9/11 story. It’s not the end of the threat. It’s not the end of the 9/11 story itself. But it certainly is an important moment in that overall story. And so we began developing this as an exhibition. And in the course of that development, the relationships we had with the military and the intelligence folks had really developed through a set of other programs at the museum. And so we were getting access to people and to objects that could be shown in the exhibition that actually went far beyond what we’d originally imagined. It was hard to imagine this originally, because everything was still classified, essentially. So we didn’t even know what we were asking for in most cases. But as we began to get access to people, including some still active in the intelligence community, people who were part of the hunt, who were there for the conclusion of the hunt. We put together for the exhibition, I think it was a very, very powerful narrative in the context of an exhibition that was only a tiny fraction of what we had gathered through the interview process. And so we decided that for the 10th anniversary of the raid, it would be a very powerful film. We added even after the exhibition opened, a number of very important interviews that fleshed out the story beyond what the exhibition could tell. And so it was a bit of a rush, and doing things under COVID is, as everybody knows, at least very different, if not crazy, but we did manage and get it to completion. And here we are Sunday night, May 2, History Channel, I’m doing the plug … And that’s the short version of the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:44

Where do you start? What are the first phone calls that you make to kind of open the doors to as you said, to this previously undisclosed information?

Clifford Chanin 3:52

I’ll let Jess tell about these programs that I mentioned before, because they turn out to be absolutely critical in establishing a level of confidence and trust between the museum and these broader agencies. So I think Jess should pick up the beginnings of the story. And then we can talk about, you know, how we actually tried to figure out what the what the story should be.

Jessica Chen 4:13

Sure, thanks, Cliff. So at the museum, the museum opened in 2014. But even before that, it really benefited from a really strong relationship with a lot of the agencies that not only responded immediately after 9/11, but kind of took up the work after 9/11 to combat terrorism and also to do the work that continues to keep this nation safe. And so those groups not only provided assets for the exhibition, but have continued to come to the museum, especially with new recruits and with new staffers who are interested in understanding how 9/11 fits into their institutional history. These visits have actually become very cool programs that we offer to what we call professional groups. And these are groups that are comprised of intelligence agencies, ;aw enforcement agencies, military and government professionals who are really kind of diving into their museum experience with a very personal connection, but also a mission-oriented sense of the story for us at the museum, not only in the museum work that we do, but also thinking about this film. It’s largely stemming from these relationships that have been built over time, not only with the people who were part of making the museum happen, but also the people who continue to bring new people through the museum.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:29

It’s incredible. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions most Americans have about the story of Osama bin Laden in the way that his narrative intertwines with the United States?

Clifford Chanin 5:45

Well, you know, it’s a really interesting question. It came to such a definitive conclusion on May 2, 2011, people could get the impression that there was kind of a straight-line outcome here, that this was all forordained, and this was just how it was going to turn out. And I would say, that’s anything but the truth. The first issue is what our focus on bin Laden was before 9/11, which wasn’t widely concentrated across the national security community. Obviously, there were people who were focused on al-Qaida and understood the threat and understood that in 1996 and 1998, when bin Laden issues fatwas justifying attacks against the United States, against American civilians in the second fatwa, that, you know, that is an important threat. But there were other things going on in the world. And even those earlier attacks and the embassies in Africa in 1998, the Cole in 2000, as tragic and impactful as they were, it did not really transform the sense of the threat. And that, of course, was what happened on 9/11. And so, to me, the interesting part, and I think we present this in some fascinating detail, how do you hunt for someone who’s hiding from you who could be anywhere in the world? And who’s actually quite good at hiding? I was talking about this one of the intelligence analysts at one point, and she said, Well, you know, Ted Kaczynski was hiding in the United States, our own country, I think it was 17 years, and we couldn’t find him. So you know, why would it have been easier to find Osama bin Laden, and then even when the lead gets us pointed at that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where ultimately he was found, there’s never any assurance, it’s no more than a circumstantial case, that this may be somewhat important, but there’s no guarantee it’s Osama bin Laden. And so every step of the way has risk. Every step of the way has a calculation about, Is this real? And if we act as though it’s real, and it turns out not to be real, what are the consequences of that going to be? I mean, just imagine everything that happens on that raid happens exactly the same way. And it’s not Osama bin Laden. You know, it’s some drug dealer, we’re not going to invade Pakistani territory for a drug dealer. So how do we deal with that? And so one thing after another, which in retrospect, seemed like a very logical progression, none of it, none of it was except, and it’s a remarkable credit to their work. But the intelligence professionals who drove this hunt, said, Yes, we can’t give you a written guarantee. But this is what the conclusion leads us to determine.

Jessica Chen 8:38

I’m gonna add to what Cliff just said, and kind of characterize it in my own personal experience. I was starting eighth grade on 9/11. And then I was in New York, having just graduated from college, when the raid, the successful operation was announced. And I think for a lot of people who are my age, and who kind of, these two moments kind of form the bookends of our adulthood or growing up into adulthood, I think that it’s hard to kind of link the first moment to this moment. The film itself kind of traces these bookmarks. You know, it starts with intelligence, it goes to policy, and then it goes to the military raid. And I think we forget just how committed many people were after 9/11 to finding this person that was that was really hard to find. And I think what the film does is, it helps people to understand that the motivation and the drive to bring justice did not go away, even though they couldn’t find him, and that there were real personal sacrifices made along the way. I’m really hopeful that for my peers to watch this film, and to understand just how committed everybody was to seeing this through.

Hope Hodge Seck 9:49

I really resonate with that. I think we’re of a very similar age. I think I was also in eighth grade when the attacks happened. I think that really puts it in context. They were key moments. Guess I’ll just ask you both to expand on that. So when you have this wealth of information and all these exhibits, and all of this documentation, how do you then make decisions for how to organize it to tell and frame a story, especially when you’ve got the constraints of time?

Clifford Chanin 10:19

So it was shaped a little bit by the exhibition, although the film is very different than the exhibition. And I do want to say, again, just a brief plug, the exhibition itself, the museum is open, the 9/11 museum is open, we’ve just reopened the bin Laden special exhibition. So I hope people who are thinking of traveling to New York might consider coming to see it if they can. We’re offering online virtual tours of the museum and the exhibition as well. So 911 memorial.org, our website is the place to go looking for that. Sorry for diverging from your question. But the most powerful factor in shaping this, from the very beginning, we alluded to this before, but it’s very unusual, curatorially speaking, we never had a sense in advance of what objects and which people we would have available to us to tell the story. So we would make requests based on these relationships that just described earlier, of these intelligence agencies initially, just to say, look, were planning to do this exhibition, we’d like to be able to talk to you about what might be available for us. And those agencies are bound by the classification rules, obviously. And even though, you know, many of the key public figures who were involved in this had spoken about the raid and wrote wrote about the raid, technically it was still classified. So anything that they were going to make available to us had to go through an internal process within each of these agencies, and the agencies have different processes with different considerations. And on top of which we never knew how long it would take, or what the criteria for decision would be, as to whether or not we could get something. So that was, that was curious. But we did manage to get these meetings that particularly on the intelligence side, where we go in, and we’d say, Well, here’s the point in the story that we’re trying to make, we’re trying to tell, for example, that, you know, there was this massive effort to find as much intelligence as you could by partnering the intelligence agencies on the battlefield with the military, just do these raids and sweeps and process all this intelligence in real time. So you can really make it actionable as soon as possible. Okay. That’s a good point, right? What could demonstrate that. So we are museum curators who don’t know what the objects are, and the people were asking our intelligence professionals who don’t know what museum curators need. So, you know, we would really try to be very specific in their requests. And inevitably, what happened was, we’d be in these meetings, you know, in these secret bunkers. And you know, you have to be screened to get in with a pass and an escort and you’re never, you’re never alone. And we’d be sitting in these rooms. And we’d make a point, this is what this is the kind of thing we want. And you could see, they began looking at each other. And you could see the eyes communicating there, maybe a little smile here and there. But they wouldn’t say anything in front of us. Because what they were thinking of offering us was still classified. And so the question was, A, is this really the answer to the question of what they’re looking for? Well, we can’t ask them. And B, if it is the answer to the question of what they’re looking for, can we get it cleared and give it to them? So the process was very elaborate. Internally, the only thing I will add is, it’s very clear to me and we became, you know, friends with some of the folks in the agencies who became our internal advocates. So there were people who, for a variety of reasons thought, this story should be told the 9/11 Museum is the place to tell it, and I, Person X, who have access to the process, who understand what’s being asked for, who know the people who are involved in making these decisions, I am going to be the internal advocate for this project inside my agency. I don’t think this happens, really, if we don’t have a handful of those key people. I can’t thank them personally, well, I thank them personally, but I can’t thank them publicly, for exactly the same reasons that I’ve described in the beginning of this story. But that really is the key doing this, because they all are knit into this story together. They know one another, they trust one another. They work together. And they would vouch for us with some of the other folks who may have retired or whatever it was, Would you be willing to sit down for an interview with them? And that’s how the process really unfolded.

Jessica Chen 14:45

To pick up where Cliff leaves off. You know, now you have all these relationships, all of these advocates and what sometimes feels like a landslide of connections of details, of stories to tell. I think Cliff and I both have kind of threads in the story that we felt very personally convicted to bring to light. You know, there, there are some things that are explained that that I think I’d leave it to Cliff to kind of flesh out in more detail that have never been kind of discussed publicly before. But I think for me, you know, something that was incredibly important when evaluating how to take all of this material and put it in a film, which, although it’s, it’s a full-length film, felt a little short at the end, because we’re trying to stuff so much stuff into it. For me, it was really understanding how can we convey the humanity and the human cost at every step in the story. So the film opens, really, with an understanding of 9/11, and the human loss on 9/11. And then you go through a hunt that is marked by people who are incredibly human. I hope we’ve captured them, kind of their frustration, but also their commitment, and even their human sacrifice in terms of seeing this through policymakers, when they’re discussing the hunt, the odds that Cliff described earlier, really thinking about the people who are going to be doing this and what they’re putting, those people in that situation that they’re asking them to expose themselves to, and then the military members who take on kind of the risk and see the mission through. And so I think, because of all the interviews with so many generous, unseen individuals, we’re able to kind of get a sense of the people that the real people who kind of were involved in the story, and I hope we’ve done a good job and kind of lending some some of their personalities to tell the story.

Hope Hodge Seck 16:31

Man, I can’t wait to see it. What sorts of things are easier to understand and analyze and contextualize, with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight?

Clifford Chanin 16:44

Well, I do think there was an awareness in the community at large, that one of the failures of 9/11 was the lack of communication across agencies, and between the intelligence and the military world. And they tried to fix that right away. And because of, you know, tradition and culture, and just the different approaches, that wasn’t an easy fix. But once we were fighting in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq, it was something they realized, you just had to do it, because you were losing service members on the battlefield there. And there was always a sense that al-Qaida was still out there, bin Laden was still out there, and didn’t know what they were planning. But you knew they were planning something, and so you know, that prospect of another catastrophe, or simply not doing enough to protect American military personnel on the battlefield, that really broke down a lot of barriers. And it’s a remarkable story, because, you know, the techniques, the practices that were sort of implemented over years before the raid in Pakistan, were the very same techniques and practices that were applied to solve this problem of what’s going on in that compound. And so even though it was from the distance factor, and from the political factor of going into an allied sovereign nation without their permission, and conducting a military operation, in the heart of a populated area, the people who knew how to do this, were confident that they could do it, and they had done things like this enough and work together enough that, you know, it was more complicated, certainly, and more risky because of the factors involved. But you know, as one of the SEALs says in one of the interviews, that a raid is a raid is a raid. You know, we know how to do this. It’s really, you know, a remarkable piece. And the aviation piece of this is also something that — the whole mission was about four hours. Forty minutes of that mission, were on the ground, which means more than three hours, the operators were basically passengers on what one of the SEALs called a ginormous bus. And so the success of the mission is in the hands of the pilots, and how they conduct themselves and how they’re prepared for this and what they know about the conditions that they’re flying in all of this interaction. And all of the key actors had worked with one another on other missions before they knew one another, they trusted one another. And so again, that period, through war, of really developing expertise and trust, I think it was key to what would ultimately happen and what the U.S. military has learned about how to conduct these kinds of operations.

Hope Hodge Seck 19:41

To build on that, are there indicators that events would play out differently if they happen today? You talked about the need to communicate better. I know that’s not a problem that probably will ever be fully solved.

Clifford Chanin 19:57

You know, the thing that The experts always say is that the threat changes. And so 9/11 was a product of al-Qaida, which was at that point, a structured administrated centralized organization, with, for a terrorist group, you know, reasonably efficient command and control. The years since have seen that central structure come under enormous pressure and break in many ways. But the threat has splintered into other groups that may be connected with al-Qaida or not, may have been inspired by al-Qaida may have said al-Qaida didn’t go far enough, as the Islamic State did. Or that you might have these so called “lone actor” terrorists who radicalize online or through personal contacts with people and decide on their own as some ideologists of the Jihad have urged them, just to attack people where you can. I mean, we don’t want to have a centralized structure anymore, or we can’t sustain a centralized structure anymore. But it doesn’t change what the mission needs to be. That threat changes. Therefore, how we study it, how we understand it has to change, and how we respond to it has to change.

Hope Hodge Seck 21:09

One aspect of the way the story is told, and you’ve already referred to this, is there are these educational materials for high schoolers to discuss 911 and the hunt for bin Laden and Operation Neptune Spear. Today’s high schoolers obviously have no memory of 9/11, which is a little bit shocking for older Millennials like me to contemplate. And in fact, there are even soldiers and Marines and service members who have deployed to Afghanistan with no memory of 9/11, which is the nexus for the start of this war. Why was it so important to provide an entry point for high schoolers into this material?

Jessica Chen 21:51

For me, I think so much of and I’m also speaking from an older Millennial perspective, but our department or my department in the museum is focused on education. And I lean on my colleagues and their expertise to work specifically with students. But I think all of us on the education team feel really strongly that the world that we live in today is shaped so much by the events of 9/11 and the events that followed, I think it’s important to contextualize it because we understand that the leadership lessons, the incredible stories of courage and of commitment, that they have resonances with what is going on in the world today. And I think that trying to engage students, and trying to kind of connect them with the importance of understanding our shared history is just so, so important and so central, as they think about, you know, where they’re going to be in the next 10 years.

Clifford Chanin 22:43

You know, this is the 10th anniversary of the bin Laden raid, but it’s also the 20th anniversary, this September, of 9/11. Twenty years is the span of a generation. Think about it. I mean, nobody who’s in high school was even born when 9/11 happened. And if you’re in college, you may have been born, but you were a year or two old and you’re not going to remember it. And so it’s a funny thing that happens with history and a museum like ours. When we started this project, and I go way back to, I wasn’t in junior high school when this happened. So the thought was, well, everybody knows this story. So you know, what’s going to make our presentation of the story compelling? Well, 20 years pass, and that assumption is completely out the window. Not everybody knows this story. In fact, every day, more people don’t know this story. And so the challenge for the museum of telling this story, and as Jess says, explaining just how significant this moment in history was, and continues to be. Now that becomes, I think, frankly, more than we imagined it 15 years ago, that becomes central to the mission of our current-day museum and will only grow in importance every day. I mean, think about, it’s not just the attack and the vulnerability. It’s the response of this country. I mean, I don’t know if you guys remember. But, you know, this country came together across all divides, across all barriers, I mean, all the things we’re struggling with as a society today, were wiped away by the common solidarity and feeling that service was spontaneously the outcome of Americans reactions to 9/11. Not just Americans, people around the world. If we’re thinking about where we are today, look back and ask the question, what was it that gave us this kind of resilience and solidarity 20 years ago? What’s missing? What can we do about it now? Because it’s better to be like that than it is to be at each other’s throats. And so, you know, that’s how the mission of the museum evolves. It’s always rooted in 9/11 and telling that story, but there’s no fixed point where you can say Hey, okay, this is over, let’s turn the page. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Hope Hodge Seck 25:04

I have one final question that I hope that both of you will answer in your own way. What larger story do you think all the events that you cover in this documentary, and the accompanying presentation, tell us about America?

Jessica Chen 25:19

I think, you know, going back to personal experience again, and also I was on the West Coast when 9/11 happened, and now have spent most of my adult life on the East Coast. So I consider myself a New Yorker. But I think the breadth of characters of people who undertake this work is pretty remarkable, you know, something that I can say without necessarily speaking to specific identities, but the the number of women who are involved in this work and who take on, you know, risk and responsibility. I’m hopeful that, that when people watch this film, that they’re going to see something in it that reminds them of themselves and where they they are in life and how they can contribute to society, but can also just recognize the importance of working together. And this is just to kind of pick up on what Cliff was just saying, that almost everybody who we interviewed for this film, mentioned, at some point in their interview, just looking back and thinking how remarkable it is when everybody learns how to place trust in one another when everyone works together, when everyone is committed to a common purpose. And I think that obviously can be applied into situations that are not exactly like this, but even the environments that all of us work in and live in. That’s kind of that that’s where I where I land on the film.

Clifford Chanin 26:34

Yeah, I agree. You know, as we’ve gotten to know some of the folks involved, it’s very obvious that they disagree about things, they don’t all see the world the same way. And yet, when they were required to do something for the common good, the only factor was how to succeed in doing that task. Everything else was secondary. And it’s been my good fortune to see some of those relationships in action, to see how they relate to one another, in spite of whatever other differences that are much, much smaller in importance than the things they have in common. But in spite of their differences, there is a sense of mutual recognition in the idea that they went through this together, they took the risks together, they understood that the most important thing in these circumstances is to be able to count on the other person you’re working with, regardless of anything else. And every one of them came through for everybody else when they needed to. That’s just a remarkable story. And it is really what it is to offer the best of your service on behalf of your country. And really on behalf of the common humanity that you know, you share with everyone else who’s involved in this. And of course, for the families of the 9/11 victims, for the victims themselves who were killed. I mean, that focal point of the mission, never faltered through the hunt, when they weren’t finding anybody when they didn’t know where to look. All of that drove them onward to this, you know, remarkable, remarkable success story.

Hope Hodge Seck 28:21

Well, thank you both so much for being here today. This documentary, as you said, comes out May 2, what are the different ways that people can watch?

Clifford Chanin 28:29

Well, the History Channel is going to be premiering it through their your cable provider. As of May 3, it’s available through histories, website and digital platforms. And you have to sign on with your cable login information. And it’s also available for sale through various streaming partners that provide History Channel broadcasts

Hope Hodge Seck 28:54

Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.

Clifford Chanin 28:57

Thanks, Hope.

Jessica Chen 28:58

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:08

Thanks for joining us for this special episode of Left of Boom. I’d love to hear your thoughts on “The Hunt for Bin Laden.” Send me an email at podcast@military.com and let me know what you think of the documentary and presentation. You can also pitch me ideas for future shows while you’re at it. If you’re not subscribed to the podcast, please go ahead and do it now so you don’t miss a future episode. And leave us a rating and review to so other people can find us. And remember that you can get all the news and information you need about your military community every day at Military.com.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sailors may dress according to preferred gender off duty, Navy says

With the upcoming April 12, 2019 start of a new Pentagon policy that will bar most transgender people from entering the military and restrict transgender medical transition for those not grandfathered in, the Navy has released additional guidance noting that sailors will be permitted to “live socially” in their preferred gender while not on duty, even if they must conform to the standards associated with their biological gender while in uniform.

“There is no policy that prohibits the ability of a service member to express themselves off-duty in their preferred gender,” officials said in a recently released Navy administrative message. “Appropriate civilian attire, as outlined in the uniform regulations, will not be determined based on gender.”

The guidance does add that deployed sailors may be restricted in off-duty attire choices “to meet local conditions and host-nation agreements with foreign countries” at the discretion of regional commanders and senior officers.


“All service members are expected to continue to treat each other with dignity and respect,” the message adds. “There is zero tolerance for harassment, hazing or bullying of any service member in any form.”

Officials have insisted that the Pentagon’s new policy — which was spurred by a series of tweets from President Donald Trump in 2017 — does not constitute a ban on transgender individuals in uniform. However, it does restrict those who have not obtained a waiver by April 12, 2019, to serve in their biological gender only, and requires prospective troops with a history of “gender dysphoria” to verify that they have had 36 months of stability in their biological gender and are willing to meet the standards associated with it to enter the military.

The Navy and the Marine Corps, which both released additional guidance ahead of the new policy taking effect, did clarify that currently serving transgender troops who are deployed or otherwise hindered from getting a waiver by the deadline may submit an exception-to-policy request.

“This request must be routed to the commanding officer by the service member no later than 12 April 2019 and must contain a presumptive diagnosis from a provider (e.g., independent duty corpsman or civilian provider),” the Navy message states.

That request must then be forwarded with an endorsement from the service member’s commanding officer and submitted up through the first flag or general officer in the chain of command.

Marines may obtain an extension via a request to the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, according to a Marine administrative message. The request must include a presumptive diagnosis from a civilian medical provider or independent duty corpsman and include a commanding officer’s endorsement.

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

(Department of Defense)

The policy set to take effect aligns closely with a February 2018 memo to the president authored by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis following a policy review of the impact of transgender troops on “readiness and lethality.”

“In my professional judgment, these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our service members around the world,” Mattis wrote.

Many in Congress, however, have been fiercely critical of the new policy, pointing out the honorable service of the estimated 9,000 transgender troops now serving and the relatively low cost to the Defense Department — estimated at under million — of providing them with medical care to date.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Air Force pilot and his brother love adrenaline

Some families really do seem to be genetic gold mines — just take a look at these siblings who earned the Medal of Honor (or the Hemsworths, am I right?).


Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac are a couple of modern bad asses in their own right. Greg is a C-17 pilot for the U.S. Air Force and Eli just shredded the 2018 San Diego Supercross. I hate to go all Top Gun on you, but these guys obviously have a need for speed.

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You just know their parents are proud as hell.

“Motocross and Supercross, you’re just in it. We race in rain or shine. The noise from the four-stroke, and you’re in the dirt — it pushes you in every area, whether it’s physically or mentally, it’s the real deal.”

In 2010, Eli was the first rider in history to win his professional debut — since then, he’s continued to prove himself to be one of the fastest riders in the sport. In early 2018, he won his first Monster Energy Supercross, and his brother Greg was there to watch.

“I’m here to support Eli. If it’s a good day or a bad day, the overall goal is to just be a big brother to the guy in the track.”

Greg pointed out the connection between a pilot in his aircraft or a rider on the bike — they’re both about a man and his machine, but neither can do it alone. Pilots and riders require a crew to get their machines going.

“I’m out there as an entertainer [but with] the military…you can’t just go into work and say ‘Oh I’m tired, I’m not gonna ride today.’ You gotta get it done no matter what if you’re in the military so that’s something that I’ll never know…and that’s where I have the utmost respect for everyone that’s in, and that’s for my brother as well.”

Check out the video above to watch Monster’s coverage of Eli’s victory and hear the brothers talk about how they support each other.

MIGHTY TRENDING

With new weapons, F-15s will now fly into the 2040s

The Air Force is arming the F-15 with new weapons to better prepare the decades-old fighter for modern combat challenges and near-peer rivals — giving the jet an ability to fly into the 2040s and track and destroy enemy targets at further ranges under a wide range of combat conditions.


“The Air Force plans to integrate improvements for the AIM-9X and Small Diameter Bomb II on the F-15 over the next several years,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

Air Force officials say the F-15 could be fully armed and operational with the SBD II as soon as this year.

The SDB II, now nearing operational readiness, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions.

The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants – and plans to keep the aircraft flying into the 2040s.

The new weapons are part of a larger F-15 sustainment and modernization overhaul which is integrating new sensors, targeting, electronic warfare systems and radar as well.

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“Active Electronically Scanned Array radars are currently being installed on F-15C and F-15E aircraft at a rate of about 20 per year. Both AESA radars have met initial operational capability. Installs will continue at a similar rate until each platform has met full operational capability, projected to be 2022 for the F-15C and 2025 for the F-15E,” Grabowski said.

Improved radar is a key component to the weapons upgrades, as it enables improved threat detection and targeting against technologically advanced adversaries – such as a Chinese J-10.

All of these adjustments are part of the Air Force’s F-15service life extension effort now underway.

“Full-scale fatigue tests for both the F-15C/D and F-15E are in progress. Final results are still pending, expected to be completed in the 2020 timeframe and will be one of many data points used to assess the size and scope of a possible F-15 service life extension program,” Grabowski said.

Also Read: Watch F-15s make insane turns through the UK’s ‘Mach Loop’

The SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers have told Warrior Maven.

Engineers are also working on plans to integrate the bomb onto the F-35, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 as well, Raytheon officials said. The Air Force is already testing the F-35 with the SDB II.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology, according to Raytheon information.

A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system, Raytheon weapons developers explain.

Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

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An F-15E Strike Eagle flies with a Lockheed Martin Paveway II Plus GBU-12 (500-lb) LGB (left) in flight exercises. (Photo from USAF)

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air-dropped bombs so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could, for example, be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel releases details of documents captured in a spy raid in Iran

Israel has revealed new details of how its spy agency smuggled out nuclear documents from Iran in early 2018, although the material does not appear to provide evidence that Iran failed to fulfill its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.


The information reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post on July 15, 2018, shed more light on the Mossad operation in January 2018 but offered few other details beyond what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in April 2018 when he announced the results of the raid.

Netanyahu claimed Israeli intelligence seized 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program dating back to 2003. Iran maintains the entire collection is fraudulent.

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President Donald Trump

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

After his announcement in late April 2018, the Israeli leader gave U.S. President Donald Trump a briefing at the White House and argued it was another reason Trump should abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.

In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the deal.

Tehran has always claimed its nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes.

The New York Times reported on July 15, 2018, that Mossad agents had six hours and 29 minutes to break into a nuclear facility in the Iranian capital, Tehran, before the guards arrived in the morning.

In that time, they infiltrated the facility, disabled alarms, and unlocked safes to extract the secret documents before leaving undetected.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Mattis starts his review of US nuclear arsenal

Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.


President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.

“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.

The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.

A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. prepares to win the peace against violent extremists

“It’s not about winning the war. It’s about winning the peace,” was an expression heard often at the Counter Violent Extremist Organizations Chiefs of Defense Conference on Oct. 16, 2018.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the gathering, which drew representatives from 83 nations, including all the U.S. combatant commanders and commanders of counter terrorism operations from around the world.

Dunford and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, spoke to Pentagon reporters during a break.


This was the third chiefs of defense conference. It started in 2016 with 40 countries. “Last year we had 71 [countries] and this year 83, so we are pleased with the turnout,” the general said.

Combating violent extremism

Over the past two years there has been real and quantifiable military progress against violent extremism. But that does not mean the campaign is over. Nations now must particularly address the underlying conditions that lead to radicalization, and that requires a whole-of-government approach, the chairman said.

There is a military dimension and chiefs of defense play an important role. The chiefs generally deal with the counterterrorism fight and mass migration. But getting after the underlying conditions – building economies, establishing schools, hospitals and infrastructure, and improving legitimate governance is a broader issue.

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Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, brief the press at the Counter Violent Extremist Organization Chiefs of Defense Conference held at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

DOD photo by Jim Garamone

“What we’ve tried to do throughout the day is ensure that we have in context the role of the chiefs of defense,” Dunford said. “One of the things that I think most of them will be more empowered to do when they return to their countries is describe the nature of the challenges we face and help craft more comprehensive solutions to deal with violent extremism.”

The military can deal with the symptoms of terrorism, but it cannot solve the root cause.

The chiefs of defense themselves are a network aimed at taking on a network. The chiefs’ network opens up opportunities to share information, share intelligence and share best practices and then, where appropriate, to take collective action, the chairman said.

The chiefs discussed countering violent extremism around the world, from West Africa and the Sahel to Libya and the maritime operation the European Union is conducting there. They discussed the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida. They discussed the operations in Afghanistan. They also talked about the Sulu Sea and the challenges in Southeast Asia.

Dunford said he was pleased with the good dialogue at the meeting. The chiefs “came prepared to engage and have a discussion,” he added.

Stabilization, sustainment effort

McGurk called the defeat-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria a microcosm of the counter violent extremist organizations campaign worldwide. “The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” he said. “But that is not the end of the campaign. We talked about transitioning to a new phase really focusing on the stabilization and sustainment effort.”

He noted that nations have announced 0 million in contributions just over the last five months enabling stabilization initiatives in Syria. This is giving hope in even in very difficult places like Raqqa – the former capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate – where 150,000 Syrians have returned to their homes.

In Iraq, the U.S.-led effort has now trained over 170,000 members of the security forces. “We had a good presentation today from the commander of the new NATO Training Mission to Iraq that will continue to professionalize the force,” McGurk said. The United States announced 8 million will go to vulnerable communities in Iraq that were so damaged by the fight and campaign and the genocidal acts of ISIS.

Getting information and intelligence to the countries that can act upon it is important, as well. Dunford said nations in Africa and Southeast Asia are looking at establishing fusion centers where regional nations can share this vital information.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.

More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.


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While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.

Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.

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Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.

The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US F-22 stealth fighters intercept Russian bombers off Alaska

US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, one of which was accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts, off the coast of Alaska on May 20, 2019, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced May 21, 2019, that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, conducted an observation flight May 20, 2019, near the western coast of Alaska, adding that at certain points during the 12-hour flight the bombers and their escort fighters were shadowed by US F-22s, Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency reported.


It is unclear why the Russians sent so many bombers near US air defenses, and NORAD was unable to say whether the Russian bombers were armed. It is also unclear why such bombers were used at all, as observation is not the traditional role of the large, four-engine, propeller-powered bombers, which are essentially heavy cruise-missile platforms.

NORAD sent out four F-22s, two for each intercept, to intercept the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. An E-3 Sentry provided surveillance during the intercepts. The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, NORAD said in a statement.

“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD, said. “Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace.”

The bomber flights May 20, 2019, came roughly two months after Russia accused the US of unnecessarily stirring up tensions between the countries by flying B-52H Stratofortress bombers near Russia for training with regional partners.

“Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters at the time.”On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”

The US military, however, stressed that the training missions, which included simulated bombing runs, were necessary to “deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Chief of US Naval Operations explains why he’s not afraid of China’s ‘carrier killer’ missile

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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, the 31st CNO. | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird


Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” antiship ballistic missile isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers’ longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.

Therefore, on paper, the Chinese can deny aircraft carriers the luxury of wading off of their shores and forcing them to operate outside of their effective range.

But Richardson contested that notion.

“I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly,” Richardson acknowledged. But “A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult.”

China’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR), bolstered by a massive modernization push and advanced radar installations on the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, have theoretically given them the ability to project power for hundreds of miles.

“The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response,” said Richardson, adding that China’s extension into the Pacific created a “suite of capabilities” that were of “pressing concern.”

But the US Navy won’t be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.

Richardson said:

“In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you’ve got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided … You’re talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge.”

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Two carriers in the South China Sea. | US Navy photo

“Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult,” he continued.

Richardson was clear that China’s purported capabilities were only speculations.

“What you see often is a display of ‘Here’s this launcher, here’s a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it’s solid-color black inside’ … And that’s just not the reality of the situation,” he said.

“You’ve got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty,” Richardson continued.

Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for “high-end war fighting and training,” as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

The Coast Guard cutter James pulled into Port Everglades on November 15 laden with 38,000 pounds of cocaine hauled in by it and other Coast Guard ships during months of patrols in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The crew of the James and the helicopter deployed with them were in formation behind the bales, some of which were topped with testaments to the precision of Coast Guard marksmen.

Coast Guard crews and the ships and aircraft they use have a variety of roles, but they are just one component in the fight against drug smuggling on the high seas that is reaching new heights.


The 458,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the most recent fiscal year, which ended September 30, was intercepted through a complex interdiction process that sometimes begins before the drugs even set sail, draws on governments and security forces from throughout the region, and requires crews to be as good at reacting as they are at planning.

“At-sea interdiction … is truly a team sport,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said aboard the James.

Colombia is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. While it’s the only South American country with Atlantic and Pacific coasts, more than 80% of the finished product destined for the US goes through the eastern Pacific — an area the size of the US mainland.

Finding suspicious vessels in an area that size can be a challenge for the Coast Guard, even with the capabilities of the other US agencies and neighboring countries with which it partners.

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A crew from US Coast Guard cutter Dependable intercepts a drug-smuggling boat in the eastern Pacific Ocean, April 8,, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Time, speed, and distance

Intelligence-gathering can point to when and where shipments will depart, but in the absence of that the search for seaborne smugglers often starts in at sea, where what a vessel looks like and how people aboard it behave are sometimes the first signs of nefarious activity.”

If you have like one of these open-construction boats, known as a panga, that usually has multiple outboard engines,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, told Business Insider in an interview aboard the cutter.

“Most of the legitimate traffic has one engine,” Randall said. “Some of the ones that are actually trying to move the cocaine will have multiple engines so they can go faster and evade detection.”

Fuel barrels can be a tipoff. “Ones that have multiple fuel barrels, you know they are preparing for a longer transit, so that may be an indicator,” Randall said. “You may also in some cases see the bales of contraband on deck.”

In other instances, the crew of vessel not waving or otherwise acknowledging the Coast Guard’s presence — particularly when that presence is a helicopter overhead — may also warrant closer attention.

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A boarding team aboard the Coast Guard cutter Stratton removes bales of contraband that later tested positive for cocaine from a go-fast vessel in international waters in the drug-transit zone of the eastern Pacific Ocean, February 23, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)

Personnel from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, a US-based multiagency body that liaises with authorities through the region, also run aerial patrols over the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean.

“They’ll fly some overhead surveillance, and one of those aircraft may sight one of these vessels,” Randall said of the JIATF-South. “Then they’ll vector us in to those targets, and then that’s when we launch the boats, launch the helicopter, and coordinate an interdiction.”

But where and when — and even whether — those interdictions take place depends on a number of factors.

“It basically boils down to time, speed, and distance, and where you want to effect that interdiction,” Randall said.

“There’s a time aspect. There’s a boat-capability aspect. There’s a what-is-your-adversary-going-to-do aspect,” Randall said.

No two interdictions are the same, he added. It’s “situation-dependent on all those things.”

“We talk with our pilots. We talk with our boat operators and say, ‘OK, this is what we think is going to be the best process to effect this interdiction,'” he said. “Then we put all those pieces together, make some decisions, launch, and then try and go effect the interdiction.”

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Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf during a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 10, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

‘We do a lot of training’

Coast Guard crew members tasked with those interdictions are typically waiting on-call aboard their ship.

“We kind of rotate with three teams, and we rotate when you’re on ready status,” said Lt. j.g. Simon Juul-Hindsgaul, a boarding officer on the James, in an interview aboard the ship. “You’re decked out … you hear the pipe, and you’re ready to go.”

Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.

“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”

Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.

“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”

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Crew members from the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer interdict a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel during a counter-narcotics patrol, November 11, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Midas)

There are different approach tactics for different kinds of vessels, Juul-Hindsgaul said, declining to elaborate on them. And different kinds of missions come with different kinds of concerns, he added.

“When it’s a pursuit mission — so it’s not a vessel that is potentially flagged or that we would have to just do some alongside questioning — then you’re thinking are they going to be compliant? How am I going to approach the vessel? What’s the safest angle of approach?”

In the small boat, where Juul-Hindsgaul is always stationed, communications are a constant concern.

“Comms with the helicopter, because they’re generally overhead and they can vector us in, that’s key,” he said. “The farther out we operate, the more unreliable the communications become, so then you start working secondary comms and that sort of thing.”

Approaching a suspect vessel can get hairy. In April, Coast Guard and Navy crews came upon a go-fast boat in the eastern Pacific. Spotting the US ship, the go-fast boat’s crew began throwing their cargo overboard.

Then their engine caught fire, and Coast Guardsmen and Navy sailors had to battle flames before seizing a half-ton of cocaine.

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The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air, February 25, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Some at-sea interdictions, which can take 12 hours or more, come up with nothing, either because the suspect vessel carried no contraband or because it offloaded it before being intercepted.

Whatever the situation, Coast Guardsman tasked with boarding have to prepare for a variety of potential threats. In one case, a fishing vessel intercepted by the James during its most recent cruise had more than 30 people aboard, Juul-Hindsgual said.”

Just the sheer number of individuals that I don’t know what they have on them before I get on board,” he said, “there’s always that.”

“We’re always checking to make sure that they don’t have any weapons that could potentially harm us,” he added. “Then with the other vessels … they could potentially ram us or something, so we’re always aware of that.”

Boarding a suspected smuggling vessel brings a new set of challenges, with a procedure to match.

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Coast Guard cutter Valiant crew members transport seized contraband from one of the eight vessels interdicted during their eight-week patrol in the eastern Pacific in early 2016.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“So we get on board, one of our initial procedures, which you learn out of school, is just your initial safety sweep. You always do that, make sure that the vessel’s safe to be on board,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.

Training includes a basic boarding course for officers as well as a specialized counter-narcotics course. Crews keep training while at sea. “We do a lot of training,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.

Some smuggling vessels, especially self-propelled semi-submersibles, which carry multiton loads of drugs just below the surface and cost id=”listicle-2621744055″ million to million apiece, are equipped with “kill switches.”

“We find that all the time, that they have scuttling valves or something,” Juul-Hindsgual said.

Sometimes smugglers just throw contraband overboard. Recovering floating bales of drugs is no easy task either.

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Crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South on top of a self-propelled semi-submersible they stopped July 3, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Boarding a smuggling vessel means eventually getting off of it — a task complicated by drugs and detainees that need to be brought back.

“It matters whether or not the vessel has nationality [and] if it makes a claim of nationality,” Randall said of dealing with a seized vessel. “If it makes a claim of nationality, then we may have to use one of our … bilateral agreements … to do some exchange of information to verify the registry of the vessel or verify the nationality of the people” on it.

That inquiry and the response to it often has to go through layers of bureaucracy. It may take hours to get an answer, but that answer affects what comes next, Randall said.

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A boarding team member from Coast Guard cutter Stratton grabs a bale of cocaine that suspected smugglers jettisoned from their vessel in a failed attempt to flee Coast Guard pursuit in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

“For the safety of the people we usually bring them on board, because some of these semi-submersible or these low profile vessels are not the safest vessels to be on,” he added. “So we’ll remove them and put them on our boats, which [are] a safer platform, until those disposition processes work out.”

“That’s generally an all-hands effort,” Juul-Hindsgaul said of removing people and contraband.

Read more: The Coast Guard is catching more drug-running subs, but most ‘very stealthy’ narco subs are probably going undetected

“I’m out there on the boarding team and we … do the full law-enforcement boarding,” he added, “and then we’ll set a different scenario where we set a stage on board, where everyone preps and gets ready and then we’ll just transport all that back to the vessel.”

Coast Guardsmen handling any suspected drugs are outfitted with protective gear.

“You don’t want to get any of it on you or ingest any of it,” Randall said. “It’s really highly potent.”

“People train to go through and … check medical and all that sort of stuff for” detainees, Juul-Hindsgual said. “Then we gear up and then transport the contraband to a secure hold” aboard the Coast Guard ship.

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

Coast Guard cutter Stratton boarding-team members detain four suspected smugglers after intercepting their vessel with 17 bales of cocaine on board in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

“We give [detainees] a medical check. We get them showered. We give them a uniform and then start providing three meals a day and all that kind of stuff,” Randall said. “They take good care of them until we get them back to the US judicial system.”

Detainees, some of whom arrive poorly clothed or in ill health, remain at sea with the ship, disembarking to another vessel if the cutter makes a port call in another country, as the Coast Guard must hold them in international waters.

“Once we get, basically, to a position where we’re allowed to enforce US law or a country waives jurisdiction … and we get an positive drug test, we will embark the people as detainees and then embark the contraband and then hold them until we can bring them back for US prosecution,” Randall said.

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

A Coast Guard cutter Bernard C. Webber crew member carries a bale of cocaine during a drug offload at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, October 16, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

‘Peddlers of poison’

Taking care of the drugs is fairly straight-forward process. Seizures from several ships are collected aboard one ship for an offload, usually in South Florida or Southern California.

From there, the drugs are usually turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which takes samples and discards the rest. Each year, the DEA’s Cocaine Signature Program conducts tests on about 2,500 cocaine samples.

The DEA says its tests can determine the origin of cocaine down to the sub-regional level with 96% confidence, and it consistently finds that Colombian cocaine dominates the US market.

The DEA has “ways to … analyze that [cocaine] and then the bulk of it gets destroyed,” said Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant. “They will use it to enable prosecutions to better inform the intelligence picture on this threat that exists out there.”

Things are more complicated for the human cargo that Coast Guard ships bring back.While the Coast Guard is a law-enforcement agency, the expansion of the drug war and of its authority to detain suspected smugglers in international waters has increased the numbers of detainees.

That increase has raised concern about legal procedure and due process.

In 2017, a former Coast Guard lawyer described the cutters holding detainees at sea as “floating Guantanamos.” Another Coast Guard officer called them “boat prisons.”

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

Petty Officer 1st Class Radoslaw Florczak, left, a health services technician aboard Coast Guard cutter Active, medically screens a detained suspected narcotics smuggler during a patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, May 15, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)

Schultz’s predecessor, Paul Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, bristled at that description when asked about it during a December 2017 interview, saying he thought it was “an unfair stab at the Coast Guard.”

Taking care of detainees while aboard and offloading them to the proper authorities were “a challenge of logistics,” he said.

The Coast Guard and US officials have said intelligence gleaned from detainees is vital to bring down trafficking networks, though some are skeptical the smugglers being caught — often low-level members of criminal groups or fishermen who sign up for the lucrative pay a successful smuggling run can bring — can offer more than fragments of information.

“Make no mistake, these are peddlers of poison,” Zukunft said in December 2017. “So I think there’s been a mischaracterization of who these people are. They have choices. They’ve elected to engage in criminal activity. That is a direct threat to the livelihood here in the United States.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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